National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries Jacques-Louis David (artist)
French, 1748 - 1825
The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries, 1812
oil on canvas
overall: 203.9 x 125.1 cm (80 1/4 x 49 1/4 in.) framed: 243.9 x 165.1 x 15.2 cm (96 x 65 x 6 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1961.9.15
On View
From the Tour: 18th- and 19th-Century France — Neoclassicism
Object 3 of 7

David described Napoleon's tireless dilligence: "He is in his study. . . . The candles flickering and the clock striking four remind him that the day is about to break. . . . He rises. . . to pass his troops in review."

It is unlikely that Napoleon actually posed for this portrait despite its convincing detail. The painting is an artful contrivance to convey three aspects of his public image: soldier, emperor, and administrator. A volume of Plutarch's Lives positions him with the great generals of ancient history and reinforces the meaning of the uniform, sword, and campaign maps. Embroidered on the ceremonial chair are the golden bees and N of his imperial emblem. And on the desk, rolled papers—the Code Napoléon, whose reforms are the basis of French legal theory—recall his civic role.

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